On July 1, 2011, between 50 and 100 prisoners at
Pelican Bay State Prison in the Security Housing
Unit (SHU), Corridor D, are going on an
indefinite hunger strike. The D corridor (also
known as the "short" corridor) has the highest
level of restricted incarceration in the state of
California and among the most severe conditions
in the united states. The rules of their
confinement are extremely harsh in order to force
them to "debrief" or offer up information about
criminal or prison gang activity of other
prisoners. Most inmates in the SHU are not
members or associates of prison gangs, as the
PBSP staff claims, and even those who are put
their lives and the lives of their families and
other prisoners at risk if they debrief.
Using conditions of severe mental and physical
harm in order to force prisoners into confessing
is torture! Many debriefers simply make up
information about other prisoners just to escape
the isolation units. This misinformation is then
used to validate other prisoners as members or
associates of prison gangs who in reality have
nothing to do whatsoever with gang activity.
This widespread hunger strike has the potential
to become the most significant event in
California prison reform in the last
decade. Public support is crucial. Outside
support work will be coordinated by California
Prison Focus and other groups -
Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Units
Peaceful Protest Hunger Strike Starting July 1, 2011
It is important for readers to understand the
cruelty of the policy sanctioned by the state
that allows the CDCR to place men/women under an
indeterminate SHU program only on the word of a
prison informerwhere there is no offense, no
violence, nor any gang or criminal activity. Yet
prisoners who are held in indeterminate SHU are
held, well, indefinitelyfor the rest of their
lives in SHUs and Adjustment Centers across the
state, and even on Death Row if validated as a gang member.
The cruelty is a protracted attack against
prisoners, their families, friends, and all of
their associates who are subjected to
investigations for criminal activities. It does
not matter if they are into crime or gang
activity or not, the objective is to insinuate
that they are and to cut off any relationships
that may exist with the prisoner. The gang
investigation officers manufacture their evidence
by using inmate informers to create as assumption
of crime to attack our friends and families.
The CDCR's gang investigators understand that the
prisoners held in solitary confinement are being
subjected to various forms of torture and are
nonetheless able to sustain themselves, even in
the face of these ongoing attacks. Prisoners have
adapted to maintain their sanity. So the gang
investigators take it a step further, beyond the
prison walls, where they work to intimidate by
way of threats and other means our friends and
families, be they children, grandparents,
sisters, bothers, parents or whomeverpeople who
are completely innocent of any gang or criminal
activity. They intimidate and incriminate people
across the board. They run them off in fear of
being prosecuted for a crime that does not exist
(other than to say they are under investigation).
This kind of attack is not only very intimidating
for someone who has never even had a traffic
ticket, they are actually cruel to those dear to us.
Since 1990 prisoners have been making complaints
against abuses by prison guards. Some of these
abuses against PBSP-SHU prisoners were addressed
in the Madrid case, where the court agreed that
guards were responsible for a number of areas of
prisoner mistreatment. Because medical treatment
was so bad the federal court put the prisons into
receivership and appointed a special master to
oversee changes. Many prisoners have suffered
mental disorders as a direct result of their
placement in the Pelican Bay State Prison
Security Housing Units (PBSP-SHU). The
overwhelming majority of these men had not mental
illness prior to entering the SHU, but rather
lost their sanity as a result of their placement
in this facility, as a result of the long-term impact of such confinement.
The Madrid ruling was a failure. Prison guards
either ignore the court order altogether or
implement token rules they do not follow. Nothing
the court did persuaded the guard staff or prison
administration to change their abusive behavior.
This place is a plantation or a prison colony and
we prisoners are the slaves (a status legitimized
by the 13th amendment to the U.S. constitution).
The guards are free to do with us as they please.
They have complete control of our medical care,
mail, visits, property, supplies, law library
access, laundry, yard, isolation, the lights in
our cell, family, friends, lock downs, etc. This
is an environment in which the prison guards can
torture prisoners both physically and
psychologically over extended periods of time.
One such attack is the dehumanizing yet widely
used "potty watch" which is used under false
pretenses not to find drugs, but to humiliate other human beings.
The actual objective or goal of all this is to
force every indefinitely held SHU prisoner to
"debrief" (to turn rat, snitch, turncoat, however
you want do define it). Some SHU prisoners break
and give their captors names just to escape the
terrible conditions of confinement. These
prisoners are rewarded by being placed in Special
Need Yards (SNY) where living conditions are
better. This has been happening since the 1990s
and it continues today. Ninety-five percent of
the debriefers lie in order to get out of the SHU
and then go on to become lifetime stoolies for the cops.
The CDCR uses every trick they can to force men
into debriefing, including every increasing
levels of what can only be described at torture.
But if you are innocent, or if you are a
principled person, they force you to endure every
hardship in an effort to break you. It is this
ever increasing attack that has forced us
prisoners to put aside our historical differences
in order to address the protracted attack on our
lives and to expose the criminal activities and
abuses against all indeterminate SHU prisoners in
the state of California. Effective July 1st we
are initiating a peaceful protest by way of an
indefinite hunger strike in which we will not eat
until our core demands are met. This hunger
strike will be carried on by all races, New
Afrikans (Blacks), Mexicans (i.e. of all walks),
whites and others who realize the we are silently
being murdered by CDCR/CCPOAA Union as well as
the U.S. judicial system who have turned a blind
eye while we suffer a civil death at the hands of profiteers.
Therefore we have decided to put our fate in our
own hands. Some of us have already suffered a
slow, agonizing death in which the state has
shown no compassion toward these dying prisoners.
Rather than compassion they turn up their
ruthlessness. No one wants to die. Yet under this
current system of what amounts to intense
torture, what choice do we have? If one is to die, it will be on our own terms.
Power concedes nothing without demand.
James Crowford, Mutop DuGuya (a/k/a Bow Low)
 According to the San Francisco Chronicle one
prisoner a week was killed in the state's prison system due to medical neglect.
OUR FIVE CORE DEMANDS:
1. Individual Accountability - This is in
response to PBSP's application of "group
punishment" as a means to address individual
inmates rule violations. This includes the
administration's abusive, pretextual use of
"safety and concern" to justify what are
unnecessary punitive acts. This policy has been
applied in the context of justifying indefinite
SHU status, and progressively restricting our programming and privileges.
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify
Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria - the
debriefing policy is illegal and redundant, as
pointed out in the Formal Complaint [IV-A, p. 7].
The Active/Inactive gang status criteria must be
modified in order to comply with state law and
applicable CDC are rule and regulations [eg, see
Formal Complaint, p. 7, IV-B] as follows:
A) cease the use of innocuous
association to deny an active status,
B) cease the use of
informant/debriefer allegations of illegal gang
activity to deny inactive status, unless such
allegations are also supported by factual
corroborating evidence, in which case CDCR-PBSP
staff shall and must follow the regulations by
issuing a rule violation report and affording the
inmate his due process required by law.
3. Comply with US Commission 2006 Recommendations
Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary
Confinement - CDCR shall implement the findings
and recommendations of the US commission on
safety and abuse in America's prisons final 2006
report regarding CDCR SHU facilities as follows:
A) End Conditions of Isolation (p. 14) Ensure
that prisoners in SHU and Ad-Seg (Administrative
Segregation) have regular meaningful contact and
freedom from extreme physical deprivations that
are known to cause lasting harm. (pp. 52-57)
B) Make Segregation a Last Resort (p. 14). Create
a more productive form of confinement in the
areas of allowing inmates in SHU and Ad-Seg
[Administrative Segregation] the opportunity to
engage in meaningful self-help treatment, work,
education, religious, and other productive
activities relating to having a sense of being a part of the community.
C) End Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Release
inmates to general prison population who have
been warehoused indefinitely in SHU for the last 10 to 40 years (and counting).
D) Provide SHU Inmates Immediate Meaningful Access to:
i) adequate natural sunlight
ii) quality health care and treatment,
including the mandate of transferring all
PBSP-SHU inmates with chronic health care
problems to the New Folsom Medical SHU facility.
4. Provide Adequate Food - cease the practice of
denying adequate food, and provide a wholesome
nutritional meals including special diet meals,
and allow inmates to purchase additional vitamin supplements.
A) PBSP staff must cease their use of food as a tool to punish SHU inmates.
B) Provide a sergeant/lieutenant to independently
observe the serving of each meal, and ensure each
tray has the complete issue of food on it.
C) Feed the inmates whose job it is to serve SHU
meals with meals that are separate from the pans
of food sent from kitchen for SHU meals.
5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming
and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates. Examples include:
A) Expand visiting regarding amount of time and adding one day per week.
B) Allow one photo per year.
C) Allow a weekly phone call.
D) Allow Two (2) annual packages per year. A 30
lb. package based on "item" weight and not packaging and box weight.
E) Expand canteen and package items allowed.
Allow us to have the items in their original
packaging [the cost for cosmetics, stationary,
envelopes, should not count towards the max draw limit]
F) More TV channels.
G) Allow TV/Radio combinations, or TV and small battery operated radio
H) Allow Hobby Craft Items - art paper, colored
pens, small pieces of colored pencils, watercolors, chalk, etc.
I) Allow sweat suits and watch caps.
J) Allow wall calendars.
K) Install pull-up/dip bars on SHU yards.
L) Allow correspondence courses that require proctored exams.
NOTE: The above examples of
programs/privileges are all similar to what is
allowed in other Supermax prisons (e.g., Federal
Florence, Colorado, and Ohio), which supports our
position that CDCR-PBSP staff claims that such
are a threat to safety and security are exaggerations.
Date: April 3, 2011 Submitted by:
Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell
behalf of themselves and similarly situated participants
To: Whom it May Concern
From: Pelican Bay Prison SHU Short Corridor
Inmates [e.g. Todd Ashker & Danny Troxell, and many others]
RE: COMPLAINT ON HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND
REQUEST FOR ACTION TO END 20+ YEARS OF STATE
SANCTIONED TORTURE TO EXTRACT INFORMATION FROM
(OR CAUSE MENTAL ILLNESS TO)CALIFORNIA'S PELICAN
BAY STATE PRISON SECURITY HOUSING UNIT (SHU INMATES.
This is a formal complaint and request for action
to end 20+ years of state sanctioned torture in
order to extract information from (or cause
mental illness to) California inmates
incarcerated indefinitely in punitive isolation
at Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing
Units (PBSP-SHU),based on arbitrary policies and
practices re: status of the inmates (i.e., a
California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation (CDCR gang label, without ever
being charged, and found guilty of committing a
gang related illegal act), in violation of the
1st, 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendments of the U.S.
Constitution and International law barring the
use of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or
degrading treatment or punishment as a means of
obtaining information, coercion and/or punishment
for acts suspected acts committed (per U.N.
Conventions Against Torture of 1984 1985).
1. Named Complainant(s), on behalf of
themselves and those similarly situated
inmates, family members, friends, and concerned
citizens, harmed by such policies and practices.
2. The State of California law makers
including, but not limited to, Edmund Brown,
Governor, and CDCR Secretary Mathew Cate, et al.
(Each and all of them being on notice of said
violations and responsible for inmate care and treatment)
III. SUMMARY OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS:
The CDCR has been violating the human rights of
certain inmates for the last 10 to 35 years and
counting via their policy and practice re: the
arbitrary, indefinite placement of said inmates
into punitive SHU units alleging said inmates
status (i.e., a CDCR gang affiliation
classification, which, in turn, is based on
allegations made by confidential inmate
information seeking and receiving special
treatment, etc.) mandates this SHU placement for
safety and security reasons. However, the true
nature of such status based indefinite SHU
confinement is not clear. While the arbitrary
nature of such policy/practice is crystal clear,
demonstrated by the fact that CDCR claims all
validated prison gang affiliates automatically
pose an immediate, severe threat to the safety
and security of all general population prison,
other inmates and staff solely based on this
status. It is notable that most inmates who
have been in the SHU for the last 10 to 35+ years
have never been found guilty of committing a
single gang-related illegal act. But the fact is
that this status is actually only applied to a
few hundred inmates, while tens of thousands of
gang affiliates are in general population in prisons throughout the state.
This arbitrary status based indefinite SHU
confinement was imposed on a few hundred inmates
beginning in 1985 1986, without prior notice
that a gang label was prohibited and
sanctionable; related rules and regulations were
not included in CDCR Cal. Code of Regulations.
Title 15 rules book until 1999 (while prison gang
culture goes back to the 1950's).
The CDCR began housing these inmates in Pelican
Bay State Prison SHU (PBSP-SHU)in December
1989. Said inmates have been housed in PBSP-SHU
arbitrarily, based on this status for the last
10-20 years now and their sole avenues for
release from SHU are parole, death, mental illness, or "debriefing".
"Debriefing" requires a SHU inmate to provide
CDCR staff with sufficient verifiable
information that will adversely impact the gang,
other gang members and associates to the extent
that they will never accept them back. This
equates to a CDCR requirement that said inmates
have the choice of remaining in SHU until death,
mental illness, or becoming a known informant who
has caused damage to other inmates. This makes
the inmate (and possibly his family members) a
target for reprisal, potentially for life many of
these inmates are serving term-to-life
sentences, and they have been eligible for parole
for the last 5 to 25+ years, but they are told
that if they want a chance to parole they have to debrief period!
The CDCR-PBSP-SHU policies and practices
summarized violate both the U.S. Constitution and
International law banning the use of torture and
other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or
punishment as a means of obtaining information
via coercion, and/or to punish for acts or
suspected acts of misconduct as exemplified below:
A. In December 1989, CDCR opened PBSP-SHU,
bragging that it was meant to contain and isolate
the prison system's 1% worst of the worst
inmates; and this would make the system safer
and easier to manage (This has proven to be false see page 7, Note C.
B. There has been a lot of CDCR-PBSP (and
guard union CCPOA) propaganda generated about
these "worst of the worst" ever since 1989 and it
has been perpetrated by the corporate media via
television, dramas and movies. Yet a review of
these so called demonized "worst of the worst"
PBSP-SHU inmates, who are party to this
complaint, will reveal they are actually free of
being guilty of serious rule violations for many
years and zero illegal gang-related acts in
prison. Many have paroled and discharged
parole-staying out of prison 5-10+ years, but as
soon as they returned to CDCR they were placed back into PBSP-SHU indefinitely.
C. Many of these inmates are those who
utilize the legal system to challenge illegal
CDCR policies and practices, and encourage others to do the same.
D. For the last 10-20 years these PBSP-SHU
inmates have been subject to the punitive
conditions therein for arbitrarily applied
status reasons, in order to coerce them into
becoming notorious informants for the state, or
die/suffer mental illness in SHU examples being:
1) Subject to 10+20 years of sensory
deprivation via isolation and intentional
limitations of normal human contact and social
interaction, as much as possible.
2) Denied physical contact with
family/friends; no phone calls and not even able
to have a photograph taken to send home. The
isolated location of PBSP-SHU near the Oregon
border, and the fact that visits are restricted
to 1 ½ hours on the weekends behind glass equates to no visits for most.
3) If they want out of the SHU, they have to
provide staff with information and be willing to
testify on other prisoners, free citizens,
including family members that only harms others
and this has to be known by everyone. This is a
Catch 22 situationby either becoming a notorious
informant thereby placing yourself, possibly your
family at serious risk for retaliation die or
become mentally ill in the SHU. This is
outrageous to family, friends and concerned
citizens; especially given the fact that CDCR
staff are indifferent to, and incapable of
guaranteeing the safety of inmate informants and
their families outside of the prison. This is
applied to lifer parole eligibility too (i.e.,
become an informant, or do life without parole).
4) Denied adequate medical care (this became
more pronounced when Dr. Michael C. Sayre, became
PBSP Chief Medical Officer in 2006, and who, with
the complicity of several cronies e.g. M. McLean,
Sue Risenhoover and James Flowers, et al, began
to systematically discontinue and deny
medication, specialist care, assistive aids by
telling SHU inmates, if you want better care get
out of the SHU and now SHU inmates are chained
down to the floor of the clinic like animals if
they need to see a doctor/nurse.) The Psychiatric
Staff are complicit too claiming that there are
no mental health issues precluding continue SHU
confinement, without any personal interaction with those inmates.
5) CDCR-PBSP staff constantly seek ways to
make SHU more punitive for these inmates (e.g.,
most cells are freezing in winter and adequate
clothing and head coverings are
restricted/denied; the food portions are smaller
much of it inedible and it's the same bland
diet every day for 20+ years) No exercise
equipment while most prisons provide at least a
pull-up, dip-bar in SHU units; all property
privileges are severely restricted/denied
(compared to most long-term isolation units
across the U.S.(including Federal Supermax in
Florence, Colorado). Recently all college and
education programs have been taken away from all
PBSP-SHU inmates. Also, group punishment is a
common response to any rule violation.
All of which rises to a level which constitutes
illegal policies that include psychological and
physical torture for purposes of coercion and
punishment all based on the arbitrary status.
Support for the severity of the combined
conditions (exemplified above) is fact that many
of these inmates have died; many have developed
serious medical, and mental illness; and hundreds
have elected to become "known informants" causing
major problems to their families and many have
victimized as a result (which CDRC is indifferent
to), and when they are actually going through the
"debriefing" process, if they don't provide
prison officials enough information on other
prisoners and free citizens criminal activities
they are told to come back when they do forcing
those debriefing to create and invent elaborate
half-truth stories incriminating many further
endangering the de-briefer and his family.
IV. EXAMPLES OF LEGAL SUPPORT:
Complainants present the following examples of
legal precedent in support of this complaint, and
call for action. It is notable that California
lawmakers and courts have been aware of these
blatantly illegal policies and practices for 20+
years; however, for the most part they remain
indifferent. Therefore, more direct action is necessary.
a) 1ST AND 5TH Amendments Right to be free
of punishment for association and/or choosing not
to speak (see NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co.,
485 U.S. 866, 925 (1982); U.S. v. Safirstein, 827
F.2d 1380, 1388 (9th cir.1987), American Arab
Anti-discrimination v. Reno,70 F.3d 1045, 1063
(9th cir.1995); Hydrick v. Hunter, 2006 D.J.
D.A.R. 13181, 13186 (9th cir.2006); People v.
Castaneda, 23 cal. 4th 743, 749 (2000) (Re: Cal.
Supreme Court's interpretation of Cal. Penal
Code, Section 186.22, which is the Penal Code
relied upon for CDCR rules re: "gang activity'.
See: Cal. Code of Regulations, Title 15, Section
3023 (e.g., only conviction for felonious gang
activity is sanctionable per. Cal. Penal Code 186.22).
b) 8th Amendment Right to be free from
cruel and unusual punishment (e.g., not to be
subject to serious threat or physical or mental
harm) see: Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d
1135, 1138 (9th cir.1989)(Re: "informant status"
issue); Benefield v. McDowell, 241F.3d 1267, 1271
(10th cir.2001); David v. Hill, 401F.Supp.2d.
749, at page 756-57 [S.D.Tex.2005] and, U.S. v
Basciano, 369 F. Supp. 2d 344(E.D. N.Y.2005); and
Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146, 1229-30,
1260-67 (N.D. Cal.1955); regarding punitive
conditions in PBSP-SHU, and mental health issues;
wherein the court questions the legitimacy of SHU
punitive measures being used indefinitely on the
inmates at issue, and the court states: In sum,
those incarcerated in SHU for any length of time
are severely deprived of normal human
contact conditions in SHU amount to a virtual
total deprivation, including, so far as possible,
deprivation on human contact" (Id.,at p.1230).
The court noted "courts have recognized SHU
conditions, length of time and effects on mental
health, are factors that must be considered" (Id.
p. 1264-65) and then concludes that PBSP-SHU
conditions were not a per se violation, "based on
the current record" (specifically stating: the
court "cannot speculate on effect it may have on
inmates confined in SHU for 10,20 years or more":
Noting "the inmates studied in connection with
the case had generally been in SHU for 3 years or
less" Id.,p.1267) see also: U.C. Santa Cruz Prof.
Craig Haney, expert psych. Studies of mental
health issues re: "SHU Syndrome" available online
(see U.C. Santa Cruz website).
Importantly, the Madrid court acknowledged the
applicability of the principles covered by the
U.S. Supreme Court in Helling v. McKinney, 509 US
25 (1993) (Id., at p.1261. "these same standards
will not tolerate conditions likely to make
inmates seriously mentally ill"). The Helling
court principle is that inmates subjected to
unconstitutional conditions do not have to
actually suffer physical-mental harm in order to
obtain relief if the risk of future harm is a
"substantial risk" the courts are supposed to provide relief.
And in the unpublished ruling USDC N.D. cal
#c98-21038 JW, Griffin v. Gomez, the court
ordered CDCR PBSP-SHU to release Griffin to
general population after finding that the
"debriefing" requirement, and risk of serious
mental "substantial risk(s)" to both physical and
mental health, that when combined (per. Wilson v.
Selter, 501 u.s.294, 304-305(1991) rose to the
level of an 8th Amendment violation and ordered
Griffin's release from PBSP-SHU in 2006 (Id.,
order Granting Writ-June 28, 2006). CDCR's
response has been: 1) To place Griffin in the
Administration Segregation Units, and 2) to
transfer him to Corcoran SHU. Also see: Robinson
v. California 370 us.660 (1962), which held"
"punishment for "status" is particularly
obnoxious and cruel and unusual punishment."
c) MISCELLANEOUS: See: Madrid ruling at p.
1241, at FN. 186 (Re: some validated gang
affiliates not placed in SHU; also note: Cal.
Code of Regulations, Title 15, Sections 3378(d)
and 3378(e) re: general prison population vs. SHU
gang affiliates eligibility for "inactive
status"). This supports contention re: arbitrary
nature of SHU; the fact that there are tens of
thousands of gang affiliates in CDCR general
prison population is well publicized in news
stories and published general rulings. See also:
Madrid ruling at pages 1263 at FN. 204 (re:
contrary evidence showing a decline in CDCR
violence starting in 1984-six years prior to
opening PBSP-SHU. Notably an analytical study of
CDCR violence since Madrid's Jan. 1995 ruling
will reveal a prison system a lot worse off since PBSP-SHU opened.)
See: U.S.D.C. N.D. Cal #coo 905 S.I., Lira v.
Cate order dated 9-30-09 Findings of fact and
conclusions of law (wherein, after a court
trial, the court held CDCR-PBSP-SHU officials
denied Lira of procedural and substantive due
process including that the 180 day classification
reviews of his continued SHU retention (mandated
in Madrid) were meaningless (id., order at p. 3,
40-42), and that PBSP-SHU (for 8 years) caused
Lira serious mental illness. Such principles
apply to all (however, very few obtain relief).
2. INTERNATIONAL VIOLATIONS
(I.e., U.N. Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and 1984 convention against torture and
other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or
punishment ratified by U.S.A. 1994).
Wherein the 1984 (C.A.T.) Article 1 defines, and
criminalizes "Torture" (I.e., "any act by which
severe pain or suffering, whether physical or
mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person
for such purpose as obtaining from him or a third
person information or a confession, punishing him
for an act he or a third person has committed or
is suspected of having committed, or intimidating
or coercing him or a third person,"when such pain
or suffering is inflicted by or at the
instigation of or with the consent acquiescence
of Public Official or other person acting in Official Capacity").
There are no exceptions - (Article 2) violations
are criminal acts (Article 4). Clearly the acts
and omissions summarized herein violate clearly
established U.S. Constitution principles, and
International Treaty Law (a flagrant violation of
Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, which affirms
that treaty law is the "Supreme Law of the Land").
GOOD CAUSE be demonstrated, the complainants
request a formal investigation, official
international condemnation of said policies and
practices, as well as, direct action by those
affected, as deemed warranted, just and necessary to right the wrongs.
Respectfully submitted, Todd Ashker & Danny Troxell
Todd Ashker, C58191
Box 7500 (D1-119)
Crescent City, CA 95532
Box 7500 (D1-120)
Crescent City, CA 95532
*NOTE: On February 5, 2010, the original of this
complaint was sent to Gov. Schwarzenegger & CDCR Secretary Cate.
Friday, May 20, 2011
On July 1, 2011, between 50 and 100 prisoners at